The interactive movie as a concept has been around for a while, first making an appearance in the 1990s when storage got a massive six-hundred fold increase thanks to the arrival of the CD-ROM. At the time the sentiment was a little strange, in that videogames were viewed more like toys and not the cinematic narrative-driven spectacles they are today. And so the idea of making them look and feel like movies led to the integration of full-motion video (FMV) of actors and scenes with very little in the way of choice and consequence.
Visual technology in 2022, graphics if you will, has seen the arrival of cutting edge motion-capture, vocal and facial performance, and narrative elements both dramatic and spectacle-driven. All of that has become a part of the games we play, from the third-person action of God of War
through to immersive first-person shooters like Metro Exodus
. So you might think that the “movie as a game” concept is limited, at least in terms of actual interaction. Since those first FMV-driven experiences in ‘90s we’ve seen a steady stream of what you’d call interactive movies, with developer Supermassive Games
being somewhat at the forefront.
Its recent Dark Pictures Anthology entries have been well-received, but haven’t quite come together as complete packages. The studio’s latest release, The Quarry
, is very similar in the “like a movie” sense, but where it succeeds isn’t strictly limited to how it meaningfully presents choices and then delivers on consequence. A summer camp teen horror inspired by movies from the 1980s, the setting and set-pieces are at times cliché or familiar, but with a cast of engaging characters and great story you’re left with something wholly memorable.
A summer camp teen horror inspired by movies from the 1980s, the setting and set-pieces are at times cliche or familiar, but with a cast of engaging characters and great story you’re left with something wholly memorable.
When talking about horror in the purely cinematic sense, raw terror and violence or gore can often be the thing that hits you. The true greats feature characters you care about, villains or monsters you fear, and an outcome that resonates beyond who survives versus who doesn’t. In The Quarry you take direct control over nine camp counsellors and with regular binary choices you get to shape their personality through dialogue and action. When the tension heats up reactions take on the form of Quick Time Events (QTEs), choosing a literal path, holding your breath as a gameplay mechanic, and deciding whether or not you’re going to shoot or “do a thing” that potentially takes a life.
A lot of The Quarry is passive, in that you’re watching a scene play out as you would when watching a movie. The ten hour or so length also makes character development and the tension build in a way that feels more like, say, a season of Stranger Things
, than the original Friday the 13th
. So with that there’s a lot of setup before the “last night at Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp” turns into a nightmare. It’s a style that is specific, but it’s also brilliantly executed. For those interested in the idea of an interactive horror movie, The Quarry feels like the new benchmark.
So many of The Quarry’s elements come together it’s hard to fault things like the limited exploration. It’s also hard to fault moments where it feels more on-rails versus something truly open and free. That said, the idea of collectibles as evidence to collect so people would believe what happened post-game is kind of genius. There’s a story that Supermassive wants to tell, and it’s something of a miracle that no matter what choices you make the story you get to see works and feels canonical. Except for the potential ‘Golden Path’ ending where all characters survive the night. That perfect run feels incomplete, which is a good thing. Horror just isn’t satisfying if it all ends well, so that’s more of a videogame thing for those that might want to give that a go.
Which is to say that there are several moments in The Quarry that deliver that great horror movie thing where split-second decision making leads to an unintended outcome. The pay-offs come thick and fast in the second-half of the tale, and it’s here where most of what you see and get to do becomes pure edge of your seat stuff.
There’s a story that Supermassive wants to tell, and it’s something of a miracle that no matter what choices you make the story you get to see works and feels canonical.
To delve into specific story beats, what the overall mystery is, why there’s a monster in the woods, would spoil a lot of the impact. A sentiment that you could apply to a lot of games, but when it comes to horror movies, spoiler-talk becomes exactly that. Again, what makes The Quarry succeed is the sum of its parts, though special attention needs to be placed on the fact that you get to control nine varied and wonderfully realised characters. Having them be teenagers and camp counsellors adds a dose of raw emotion that simply works, so there’s humour, sexual tension and the heightened personality that comes with entering into adulthood.
The animation and visuals are impressive too, from object detail through to brilliant use of light and shadow. It’s all a step up from what we’ve seen from Supermassive Games in recent years. All characters are digital stand-ins for familiar faces and established actors, but there’s a little uncanny valley action to get over. Moments where watching characters interact and talk goes from looking lifelike to slightly off. The good news is that as soon as you get to know the cast and become immersed in the story that fades away.
With so many potential endings if The Quarry clicks with you, as it obviously has here, the idea of replaying the story to see different outcomes and scenes is very welcome. And Supermassive has gone the extra mile in terms of how you can experience the story outright. Although online play has been delayed to post launch, couch co-op lets multiple people pass the controller as they take on the role of specific characters. This is awesome for so many reasons, but perhaps the best part is that you do feel like you’re a part of a shared interactive horror experience. There’s also a Movie Mode where you can tweak character traits and other settings to simply watch the story unfold like a season of a good show.
The Quarry delivers on its interactive horror movie premise, the characters are all wonderfully realised, the violence, terror and scares are all here. Meaningful choices, multiple endings and memorial set-pieces sit alongside stellar performances, excellent cinematography and cutting edge visuals. A summer camp experience you won’t soon forget.